This summer, Swedish extreme skier Fredrik Ericsson will embark on his dream of becoming the first person to ski the world’s three highest mountains: Mount Everest, K2 and Kangchenjunga. Arguably, the toughest challenge of the three will be his expedition to the world’s second highest mountain, K2, which begins in June.
Fredrik Ericsson is one of the worlds leading high altitude skiers with ski descents on some of the highest mountains on earth, including Peak Somoni, Shisha Pangma, Gasherbrum 2, Laila Peak and Dhaulagiri.
"I have already skied on three of the 14 8000m peaks. During these adventures I gained critical experience that will apply towards my goal of skiing the absolute highest. The project spans two years and I will try to ski the three highest mountains in the world: K2 (8612m) this summer, Kangchenjunga (8586m) in autumn 2009, and Mount Everest (8850m) in the autumn of 2010", says Fredrik.
The first big challenge starts now when Fredrik, together with his Italian companion Michele Fait, go to the Karakoram mountain range in Pakistan. The mountain they plan to climb and ski, K2, is arguably the hardest of all 8000-meter peaks. It is an incredibly beautiful, remarkably steep pyramid with no easy route to the top. Climbing the mountain is complicated by unusually severe and unpredictable weather systems. K2 was first climbed in 1954 by the Italians Achille Compagnoni and Lino Lacedelli. Since then, The Savage Mountain as it has come to be called due to the extraordinarily high number of deaths on the mountain has been climbed on 10 different routes and only around 200 people have summited. So far no one has made a complete ski descent from the summit of K2.
"This means that we can become the first in the world to ski the mountain", says Fredrik.
After a long, rough journey by airplane, bus, jeep and on foot the team will arrive on the Goodwin-Austen Glacier at the foot of K2 where they will set up base camp at an altitude of about 5,000 meters. They will prepare for the big challenge over a period of one month during which they will undertake several acclimatizing climbs. One of these training climbs will be a side trip to attempt the first complete ski descent of coveted Laila Peak (6069m). Mid-July will see the duo start the gruelling climb to the top of K2.
"We will not use supplemental oxygen and will carry all the same equipment as the other climbers. In addition, well also be carrying all of our ski equipment and wearing ski touring boots which are not nearly as warm, comfortable or functional as climbing boots. This makes the climb much more difficult for us than for other climbers", says Fredrik.
Fredrik and Michele plan to climb the south-southeast ridge, a long and serious route featuring extremely strenuous, high-altitude climbing. During the weeks leading to their final push, the team will methodically climb higher and higher up the mountain while their bodies and minds grow accustomed to the debilitating hardships of climbing at such altitude. When the team is fully acclimatized, the two intrepid skiers will need four days to get from base camp to the summit, spending three nights in desolate, high-altitude camps on the way.
"On the final day of our summit push we will start climbing from our 8000 metre camp at midnight and I believe it will take about 12 hours of climbing in The Death Zone to reach the top", says Fredrik.
The ski descent, which is the highlight of the two-month expedition, is expected to take five hours. The descent from the summit all the way to base camp, has a vertical drop of almost 3600 metres and has very steep sections of up to 50 degrees inclination.
"To ski at 8000 metres is extraordinarily difficult and in the beginning we have to stop to rest after only a few turns. After four to five turns ‘m as exhausted as after skiing 1000 vertical metres in the Alps", says Fredrik. The project to be the first in the world to ski the three highest mountains is a step towards Fredrik’s ultimate goal to ski all 14 of the worlds 8000-meter peaks.
Fredrik Ericsson grew up in a town called Umeå in the northern part of Sweden but since 2000 has spent most of his time in Chamonix in the French Alps. As a professional skier he spends the winter traveling to ski resorts in the Alps and exotic mountain ranges around the world.